My mom has a wooden plaque in her bedroom that says something like, “A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.” It was likely a gift from my sister, who is the gift-giver of the family and has an uncanny knack for remembering all the birthdays, anniversaries, and just about every Hallmark holiday. It is a trait that I do not share, unfortunately.
Each time I see that wooden plaque with those etched words, I damn near nod in agreement. Because truer words have never been said. At least not about my mom, my kids’ grandma. And I have a feeling I’m not alone in thinking this.
The role of grandparent is one that is seemingly the best of all worlds. You get to cuddle babies and then gently pass them back to the parents when they start to screech. You get to play peek-a-boo and read silly books, but you can often avoid the snot-faced tantrums that end with a football-carry out of a crowded grocery store. You get to play video games and watch cartoons without observing screen time limits. You get to dole out sugary treats like it’s your job because, well, it kind of is.
On paper, it seems like the best – and easiest – gig in the world.
But if you look a little closer, it isn’t quite so simple. At least not for those grandparents who really show up, who really fill the role, who really rise to the top.
Because those grandparents are just like that quote says – part teacher, part parent, part friend.
They spend hours – yes, hours – listening to preschoolers tell stories. They tell stories of their own too, teaching their grandkids the history of not only their family, but of the world. They write letters and decipher indecipherable first scribbles. They teach their grandkids how to make apple dumplings that smell like a smile and taste like a hug. And if they’re anything like my own grandma, they might teach their grandkids a few inappropriate jokes.
They teach things. By showing up, really showing up. Not just for the school concerts and the soccer games. But for the weeknight FaceTime calls. For the long, lingering conversations that have no end.
But the rock star grandparents are also part parent. They aren’t afraid to be “the bad guy” from time to time. They say “no” to three scoops of ice cream (two is enough). They carry the screaming toddler out of the store so that an on-the-brink parent can finish shopping for five goddamn minutes. They tell a sassy-mouthed tween to knock that shit off. They lead by example with their grace and kindness and patience. They don’t just tell their grandkids how to be good humans; they show them.
But most importantly, they are part friend. They are slower to offer advice, and quicker to listen. They will spend hours on the phone on a weeknight, and they will actually listen to those long-winded stories about their grandkid’s latest creation in Minecraft. They get silly and creative and aren’t afraid of a little glitter or mud.
Kick ass grandparents are there when a frustrated or sad tween “just can’t even” with their parents anymore. They’ll happily go out for pizza and a movie on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and they are always up for a sleepover. They will try on goofy hats and take selfies and like every single one of your Instagram posts, usually with some affirming AF but kind of embarrassing words of encouragement too.
Grandmas – even the “average” ones – are a treasure. But the ones who show up, who are there time and time again, who are teacher-parent-friend, who get their hands dirty and keep their hearts open … well, those grandmas are the shiniest gems of them all.
Being a grandparent is a lovely job, but make no mistake, it isn’t an easy one when you’re really in it with all you’ve got.
So here’s to the grandparents who show up and dig deep. We are all better off because of you.
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